Red Sox Host Rays In Must Win Series

Despite being 2-8 in their last 10 games, and having lost their last three series, the Red Sox still remain well in the thick of things in the AL East race. But this upcoming series with the Tampa Bay Rays could be their last gasp. 

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The Red Sox have looked like a completely different team since the trade deadline, and it’s hurting them in the AL East race. The Red Sox have had a chance to bury both the Blue Jays and the Yankees in the standings and have failed to do so, now both teams have crawled back into the picture. I mentioned the Red Sox are 2-8 in their last 10 games… the Rays, Blue Jays and Yankees are all 8-2 in their last 10. Yet the Red Sox still sit in second place in the division with another golden opportunity to prove themselves looming ahead. 

The Red Sox will have today off before taking on the Rays for a three game set at Fenway Park. Needless to say, this will be a must win series for the Red Sox, as Boston currently sits four games behind Tampa, who is slowly starting to run away with the AL East. The reason for the Red Sox struggles are simple, and honestly, could be worrisome. But if there is one thing we have learned from this 2021 Red Sox team, it is that they don’t give up. So what is it the Red Sox need to fix prior to taking on the Rays in this monumental series? 

Bullpen Needs To Find Themselves

Let’s start with the obvious, the bullpen needs to be better. The Red Sox bullpen may have over achieved a bit prior to the All Star Break, but they have been really bad as of late. In the last seven days, Red Sox relievers have an average ERA of 4.25, and an average WHIP 1.34. The Red Sox bullpen has been great most of this season, but they have been struggling mightily during this skid. That is the team will need to fix to return to where they were. 

Bats Need To Get Going

Prior to Sunday’s eight run game, the Red Sox were averaging just 2.5 runs per game over their last series. Prior to the All Star break, the Red Sox were averaging 5 runs per game. With the bullpen struggling the way they are, the Red Sox need to provide more run support. 

If the Red Sox want to keep their AL East championship hopes alive, this is the biggest series of the season so far. Luckily for the Red Sox, they will be returning back to Fenway Park for this series, where they are 20-9 since the stadium returned to full capacity. 

Red Sox Struggles: What Has Gone Wrong for Boston?

Spring training brought talks of a quest to repeat as World Series champions. Red Sox manager Alex Cora decided that, instead of putting the success of 2018 behind them, he would encourage the team to “keep it going.” What has resulted, at least through week one, has been as poor a start as anyone could imagine. The Red Sox struggles have been all encompassing, as a sleepy offense, lethargic starting rotation, and an inconsistent bullpen have quickly snowballed into a 2-7 start. Some of the numbers suggest a team that is spiraling downward.

The Red Sox struggles start with the rotation

The most prevalent issue so far has been a staff that holds a 7.02 ERA. That is the Red Sox Strugglesworst start to a season by Red Sox pitching since ERA became a stat in 1913, per Alex Speier of the Boston Globe. The most surprising note? 23 home runs allowed through 9 games in 2019, versus 5 allowed in 2018. Home runs are up across baseball to start the year, following the home run boom of the last few seasons. But even so, the Sox have been getting blasted out of the park, and it shows no signs of slowing.

Amidst all these poor starts, the team has put together exactly one quality start. One. That belongs to staff ace Chris Sale, who held the Oakland A’s to just one run over six innings on April 2nd. Sale, however, was tagged for seven runs, including three homers, in an opening day blowout by the Seattle Mariners. David Price, on the bump tonight for Boston, will look to end the Red Sox struggles. He came an out away from recording a quality start against the A’s on April 1 before allowing a two-run bomb to Chad Pinder.

If things are going to change for Boston, it is going to have to start with its hurlers working deeper and more efficiently into games. The home runs have to come down significantly.

The Red Sox struggles are also fueled by the offense

While the club is averaging 4.5 runs per game, batters have succumbed to the pressure in high-leverage situations at the dish. For the season, the Red Sox have held a lead for exactly six out of 89 innings played. They have led for just 6 percent of their innings played. That is accompanied by late inning comebacks in both of their wins, meaning they easily could be 0-9.

The team needs more production out of players like Rafael Devers, who Cora pegged to hit third in the lineup. The young third baseman finished 2018 strong, leaving the organization hopeful for a big jump this year. So far, Devers has yet to drive in a run and possesses just two extra-base hits. Andrew Benintendi has struggled mightily to get on base, which is troublesome for a leadoff hitter. His .289 OBP is well below his career average of .357, thus holding the Sox back from gaining leads early in games.

The Red Sox struggles will not end without improvement on both sides of the ball

Per Speier, “of the more than 200 teams to reach the postseason since the introduction of the wild-card round in 1995, just four have overcome a performance as poor as the Red Sox’ through the first nine games.” Yikes.

The Red Sox find themselves on the wrong side of history to begin 2019. If they have any hopes of making the playoffs once again, things have to turn around soon. Or else.

The Red Sox Struggle with Making Solid Contact

The Red Sox’ relative inability to score runs has been well-documented this season. After all, through the first 59 games, Boston scored just 221 runs, the 4th-worst total in the entire American League. Such offensive wastefulness has impacted negatively on the pitching staff, which, despite a stellar 2.41 collective ERA in June, still finds itself in the loss column all too frequently. Yet, aside from the bigger problem of scoring runs, the Red Sox just don’t seem to make solid contact, which is a recipe for disaster as the season progresses.

Purely from a fan’s perspective, this Red Sox team looks persistently off-balance at the Red Soxplate, with hitters constantly chopping the ball foul or popping it meekly back into the crowd. Each game feels similar; when the Sox desperately need somebody to produce a quality at-bat and square the ball up, it just never materializes. And frustration is now reaching boiling point.


The statistics support this notion of poor contact by Red Sox hitters. Thus far, the Sox have a .374 team slugging-percentage, which ranks 26th in the Majors and second-worst of all American League teams. Moreover, according to Fangraphs, Red Sox batters have hit the ball hard just 27.5% of the time, placing them 23rd in the big leagues, while Boston’s 20.7% soft-hit rate is the worst in all of baseball.

The correlation between these stats and actual team wins is fairly obscure, however. For instance, the Brewers have the highest percentage of hard-hit balls, but the second-worst record in the Majors; and the Royals have less hard-hit balls than the Red Sox, but have won six more games. But, in theory, a team needs to hit the ball hard if it has any hopes of scoring enough runs to compete. A team that hits continuously for power is obviously far more dangerous, and therefore more daunting for an opposing pitcher, than a team that routinely gets itself out with soft groundballs and pop flies. That’s just logic.

Of course, the great Red Sox teams of 2003, 2004 and 2007 were built with a slugging blueprint in mind. Theo Epstein regarded OPS (on-base-plus-slugging) as the single most important statistic when constructing a team and, to that effect, great hitters such as Manny Ramirez, David Ortiz, Kevin Youkilis, Mike Lowell and even J.D. Drew helped set the tone of a potent offense.

Now, those glorious days are long gone, both for the Red Sox and for baseball. We live in a pitching-dominant age, where the aces keep getting better and the strike zone keeps expanding. In the new baseball world, there is very little reward for the kind of offensive patience ingrained in the Red Sox philosophy. Now, working the count and seeing plenty of pitches is more likely to result in a strikeout, due to more pitcher-friendly umpiring. Likewise, previous Boston clubs would feast on weak bullpens, but that opportunity no longer exists. From the sixth inning on, relief pitchers tend to get better, not worse, meaning a change of focus is needed.

Red Sox

Ultimately, the Red Sox must adopt the new style of contemporary baseball, where it pays to be more aggressive and force the issue early in games. If this team has any October aspirations, it will have to cease making feeble contact and rolling over weakly on pitches, in favor of a rigorous, consistent and altogether more dangerous approach. Whether hitting coach Chili Davis is capable of implementing that change remains to be seen, but time is fast running out for these Red Sox, who must simply do better.

Is Boston Red Sox Second Baseman Dustin Pedroia Regressing?

Dustin pedroiaWinning the Rookie of the Year award in 2007 and American League MVP in 2008,  Boston Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia set the bar high for himself early in his career. Known as one of the best second baseman in the league, if not the best, Pedroia is not having as spectacular of a season as he regularly does. On the year, Pedroia is hitting .277 while posting a .346 OBP with four homeruns and a pair of steals in seven attempts. These numbers do not jump off the page and if someone never saw him play, they might think that Pedroia was an above-average second baseman, but not a superstar.
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The question at hand is: Is Dustin Pedroia regressing? As of right now, the answer appears to be yes. The 30-year-old second baseman is still a valuable asset to the Boston Red Sox, but his best seasons may be in the past. Not to say that Pedroia is not playing well this year, because he is doing a great job, but he may no longer be the best second baseman in the league. On defense though, Pedroia has committed just one error making his fielding percentage an outstanding .997.

For Pedroia, there is no doubt that things will get better. Even if he never wins the MVP award ever again, he can still help Boston win games. If he can hit around .280 with a .350 OBP, which by the way is realistic, while playing great defense in the field, he would be the type of guy anyone would take on their team. He still has many years left in him and has the only long-term contract on the Boston Red Sox, giving them security at second base for years to come.
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Overall, Dustin Pedroia raises no concerns for Red Sox nation. He gets the job done day in and day out making him one of the most dependable guys on the team. Playing in every game so far this year except two, Pedroia brings some certainty to a team which is having a disappointing season to say the least.

Explaining The Boston Red Sox Struggles This Year

Red Sox logoThis year, the Boston Red Sox by no means are having a good season. Sitting at fourth place in the American League East with a 34-40 record, only the Tampa Bay Rays have a worse record at a dismal 29-46. Of course, Tampa Bay was predicted by many to win the division with Boston earning around 87 wins. As of right now, it seems highly unlikely that either team meets their expectations. Putting Tampa Bay aside, why is the home town team struggling so much this year? Let’s take a deeper look at why the Boston Red Sox continue to struggle winning games.

The first thought everyone has when a team is bad is to blame the manager. For Boston, this is definitely not the case. Manager John Farrell led the team to a World Series championship the previous season so he must be doing something right. All the other coaches on the team are the same as in 2013, so there definitely is not a coaching problem in Boston.

A second thought is the Moneyball strategy. General Billy Beane built A playoff contending team on about half what other teams spend by putting emphasis on pitching and OBP. The Boston Red Sox rank 12th out of 30 teams in OBP this year with a .321 mark. This is not terrible, but compare this to the outstanding .349 on base percentage they posted in their magical 2013 season. Regilars in the lineup this season with a sub-.300 OBP include: Jackie Bradley Jr., AJ Pierzynski, and Grady Sizemore who was recently released. In 2012, the St. Louis Cardinals won the World Series. They led the league in OBP at .338. To put it this way: getting on base wins ball games.

If a team scores runs, they still need shutdown pitching. Obviously a few guys have put up underwhelming performances in the rotation this year (Clay Buchholz, Felix Doubront, Jake Peavy). Of course, who could forget the struggles of Edward Mujica who has been seriously misused this year. The closer has been a back-end of the bullpen guy used in low leverage situations. He has the closer’s mentality which explains his struggles as he pitched well in a pair of save opportunities this year. The rotation definitely raises some questions, and has not been a strength for Boston this year.

The injury bug struck the Red Sox this year and bit them hard. There have been a total of seven trips to the Disabled List this year for the big league club. This hurt the club and obviously replacement players cannot put up the same numbers as a regular except Brock Holt.

Overall, this year has been rough for the Red Sox. It certainly could get better, but being 74 games into the year, they will need to start playing some serious catch up soon.